The Church of Wonder

His every story  is scripture. His every song a psalm. Whether for exhortation, exultation or simply education, there is a musical testimonial that can only be ignored by those beyond redemption, or already dead, I believe. Every note is laced with truth. Not knowledge, nor wisdom, just truth. Presented in its simplest, purest and most pleasurable form: music. And every soul shall be sated by it.

Even the children.

And because of His music, and the message carried on those waves of wonderful sound, this child became a better man.

Stevie Wonder’s music, I’m sure, means a great deal to many people, but it has had a profound impact on me. In fact, it has brought me the closest I’ve ever come to an actual religious experience…many times.

The first, I remember vividly, was when I was 10 years old.

My older sister, Faraha, was always buying albums. She had gone shopping one day and came back with a bagful.

She pulled out a bunch of LPs, including an Earth Wind & Fire album, I think Gratitude, as well as the soundtrack to Barbara Streisand & Kris Kristofferson’s A star is born.

The last one she pulled out was an album with an orange cover. The cover matched the color of our sofa and loveseat. I would almost crush it a couple of times because someone would leave it carelessly on the couch. I would develop a practice of checking thoroughly where I sit from these near disasters.

I knew who he was, of course. Not a black person alive (nor white probably), of any age, could not know him. A blind man with dark shades, an afro and a dashiki, performing (and winning) at every award show and on most of the variety shows TV had to offer, playing an harmonica, piano, waving and clapping, always smiling at the ceiling, or the heavens, and singing  with the range and depth of a one-man chorus. Everybody knew him the way everybody knows Michael Jackson now.

He was a miracle.

But, honestly, at that time,  I was more interested in the “A Star is Born” soundtrack. I ain’t ashamed to say that to this day I love me some Barbara Streisand. And, that was the album we’d been waiting for, my little sister and I. It would be a week or so before I even gave Stevie a listen.

Before “Songs in the Key of life” I was aware of Stevie mostly as an icon. Musically, his big hits like Superstition, Signed Sealed Delivered and a bunch of the Motown stuff stood out most in my memory. What could a 6 or 7-year-old do with Innervisons or Fulfillingness’ First Finale, right?

And then, one night, I was alone in my darkened living room, sitting in the harsh bluish light that came in through the window from the three-story tall lamppost practically directly outside it, diffused by the bamboo shades and silk curtains my mother favored, listening to the radio as I often did, when I heard Isn’t she lovely, the hot new single from Stevie Wonder, on WBLS.  Frankie Crocker, the coolest voice in black radio history, had talked it up a bit; how this was a song Stevie Wonder had written for and about his newborn daughter, Aisha (which happened to be my little sister’s name.)

And then he played it.

And, I liked it. A lot.

But, even at 10 years old, something struck me as peculiar about this. About a blind man singing a song about the daughter he’d never see, at least not the way I see, how normal people see, bragging and raving about how lovely she is. It set me to thinking, you see. (Yep, I’ve always been this way.) Isn’t she lovely? isn’t she lovely? It wasn’t a question, though, was it? Somehow, he knew, the way he knew where all the keys were on his piano. I’d watched the man play a piano and two electronic keyboards at the same time, hands flying every which a way, with an harmonica hung round his neck.

The man was a freak show.

Which begged the question: Could he be seeing her some other way?

Being a child, for one, and a big Marvel Comic fan, I tended to attribute unexplained powers to the supernatural or phenomenon that science fiction comics thrived on, like Gamma Rays, Cosmic Rays, Radiation and the likes.

One of my favorite comic book characters was a blind superhero named Daredevil. He’d been blinded in a radiation accident and since radiation, as we all know, also enhances certain abilities, Daredevil acquired superhuman acuity, agility and sensual perception.

Cool, right?

Had something similar happened to Stevie Wonder, I wondered.

Lucky bastard!

Years earlier, I had erected a shrine to Spider Man and kept it for (what seemed like) years, but was probably more like weeks! Incense and candles set before mounted pictures of Spidey in various poses. I’d fall to my knees, hands clasped, head bowed and pray! “Please God, please send a radioactive spider to bite me! Please! So I can kick my brother’s ass!” I begged God to grant me the power to take him down, hard, with Spidey strength!

But, nothing.

Maybe that’s when I’d given up on God. What kind of God would let my older brother pummel me senseless regularly without furnishing me with appropriate superpower to fight back? Was one little bite so much to ask? It didn’t even have to be permanent…even temporary super strength would’ve been fine with me. I’d have made sure he never bullied anyone again, you can believe that! I used to even promise God I’d devote my life to righting wrongs and bringing justice where injustice prevailed. I’d follow the hero code as laid out by the God of comic books, Stan Lee, himself! I’d punish cops that shot black kids holding toy guns, and kids that stole pocketbooks from old ladies, and all kinds of heroic stuff.

Nothing.

But, Stevie, I was sure, had gotten something from God. Something special. His prayers had been answered, that’s for sure. Were his gifts cosmic, or gamma, or radioactively derived? Or something else, I wondered.

By the time the song had ended (it’s a good 6 or 7 minutes long you know) I had thought up a storm. I’d even thought of a paradox.  I thought maybe the secret of Stevie’s power resided in the music itself. Maybe it was making music that gave him the superpower of  seeing babies,  playing multiple instruments, and making incredible music while in the dark. I had to hear it again. So I waited, for WBLS always played the same songs over and over, anyway.

Wait a minute! Then I remembered, Faraha had bought the album! I could listen to it again, and again, anytime, if I liked.

That night I listened to Isn’t she lovely until I knew every note.

I fell asleep on the orange couch.

Click here for pt. 2

Loco

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8 thoughts on “The Church of Wonder

  1. Badboy says:

    “What kind of God would let my older brother pummel me senseless regularly”

    The same one that let Bobby Allen beat the crap outta me regularly. I later realized Bobby’s punches that were thrown like a pitcher rears back to throw a pitch were the hardest I’d ever get in my life. God was preparing me?? I dunno but nobody ever threw fast balls at my face like him.

    Trial by fire 😦

    Lol @ the Orange couch. I had orange checkered pants if I remember right?

    • Locohama says:

      Yeah, I have to thank my brothers on future posts for toughening me up, too. I’d be putty if it weren’t for them.
      I oved that orange couch! It was so soft and welcoming. Haven’t had a couch as comfortable sense. But of course it had 7 asses breaking it in over a decade and that’ll do it, wouldn’t it?
      Thanks for the shout!

  2. Saboten says:

    Isn’t that what good music does, it opens up your mind and takes you to a place above words and the day to day silliness we think is so important.

    • Locohama says:

      Yeah, good music will do that, offer an escape from the every day mundane. But, then there’s some next level experience that only certain artists or music can take you too…you know? An almost existential level of awareness and spirituality that is unfortunately becomeing rarer and rarer still. But maybe I need to listen to more of the newer artists before I can make that claim. Some artists seem to have a clue these days. Jill Scott, for one, has the idea.
      Thanks for the shout boo!

  3. Marisa Lyn says:

    Wow that takes me back. That album cover was like the sun shinning a foot in front of me. Stevie made a difference in a lot of peoples lives. Just the title of the album “Songs in the Key of Life” meant to me that he knew something I didn’t but desperately wanted to know. This album and this MAN made you feel even when you didn’t want to. Maybe he did/does have mystical powers, you never know.

    My song was Knock Me Off My Feet. Being 8-9 years old and not really thinking about love at that time I was facinated by his description of how love feels~ …makes me weak and knocks me off my feet…~ Even though I haven’t found that person that can make me feel that way when I hear Stevie sing it I feel like it’s possible. Yeah I know I sound like I’m in that dream world but only when Stevie is there because I truely believe he does have superpowers.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and memories.

  4. Locohama says:

    Hey Marisa! Thanks for the thoughtful shout!! Yes, memories are all we got, and I feel like I have some great ones, and if i can make a career out of sharing them in a creative and entertaining way then life is good! I mean that’s what it’s all about isn’t it?
    Stevie inspires me to think about such things and do such things. He’s a role model and a mentor through his music.
    Knocks me off my feet Still knocks me off my feet when I hear it. i remember when i first got into that song (again when I was ten) I used to think “he says ‘I don’t wanna bore you with it, but I love you’ too many friggin’ times!!” In fact I had that prejudice against a lot of the songs on this album for a long time. if he had shortened those endings just a little he probably could have squeezed those TWO 45s that came with the two albums onto those albums…right? But, by the time I was a teen and I was going through my second phase of Wonderifical, i discovered, as Prince would put it ” A joy in repetition” or rather I acknowledged it for it was always there.
    I could talk about this all day but I’m at work so I MUST CHILL LOL (see ‘Say Anything’)
    Thanks again for the shout! I love that you can feel this!
    Loco

  5. […] The Church of Wonder pt.2 continued from part 1 […]

  6. […] get back into it. Thanks for your patience! In case you’re new to this you might want to go back to Pt. 1 cuz I’m not about to do a “scenes from last season” montage […]

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